#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Pats, T-Birds each one win away

Only one thing was certain heading into Friday night; two teams would take a 3-2 lead in their respective WHL Conference Championship Series.

With two best-of-three series on the slate, two clubs were bound to take one step closer to meeting in the 2017 WHL Championship Series, which would begin next Friday

Out east, the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy-winning Pats hosted the Hurricanes and didn’t disappoint.

Out west, a sawed-off special teams battle saw the host T-Birds take a 3-2 series once again on the back of rookie netminder Carl Stankowski.

Let’s get you caught up…

Lethbridge Hurricanes (3) at Regina Pats (5)
Regina leads series 3-2
Game 6: Sunday, April 30 – Enmax Centre, Lethbridge – 6 p.m. MT

The Regina Pats needed their big guns to show up in Game 5 and they sure did.

Captain Adam Brooks woke up in a very big way. After a modest point-per-game average through 13 playoff games – by his lofty standards – Brooks ripped off four assists on Friday. The Winnipeg, MB native has clearly either recovered from or learned to manage the injury that kept him off the ice for much of the seven-game series against Swift Current.

Josh Tarzwell, however, opened the scoring in the game in what was his first shift of the series and his first career WHL Playoff goal. The 2015 second-round pick of the Canes’ backhand eluded Tyler Brown to quiet a sold-out Brandt Centre.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Josh Mahura would respond for the Pats late in the first period to send the teams to the intermission deadlocked a 1-1.

Early in the second period, Ryan Vandervlis tapped home a rebound on a power play to give the Hurricanes a one-goal lead once again. The goal was Vandervlis’ seventh of the post-season.

That’s about when the Pats woke up.

Another Ducks prospect, Sam Steel, chimed in with his first goal of the series at 5:10:

Later, Ottawa Senators prospect Filip Ahl also picked up his first of the series after a pretty passing play:

In keeping with the tight series that it’s been, Egor Babenko responded to tie the game for Lethbridge just 2:25 after Ahl’s marker after receiving a beautiful feed from underage forward Dylan Cozens who continues to impress.

Brooks set up Dawson Leedahl’s 11th of the WHL Playoffs 6:25 into the final frame to once again give Regina a one-goal lead.

The remainder of the third period was about as tense as it could be. While the Hurricanes had opportunity, both Brown and the Pats regiment stood tall to thwart a threatening Hurricanes squad. It wasn’t until only three seconds remained that Regina salted things away as Austin Wagner – who was returning after a one-game absence – notched his 13th goal of the WHL Playoffs into an empty net.

It should be noted that Brooks recorded the primary assist on the Pats’ 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th goals in a first-star effort. That’s something. Wagner had a goal and two assists in his return, while Brown and Skinner made 29 and 26 saves, respectively. Lethbridge went 1/4 while Regina was 1/2 with the man advantage.

Game 6 goes Sunday in Lethbridge.

Kelowna Rockets (3) at Seattle Thunderbirds (5)
Seattle leads series 3-2
Game 6: Sunday, April 30 – Prospera Place, Kelowna – 5:05 p.m. PT

After falling to the Rockets in Game 4, the T-Birds were dealt a major blow on Friday as Edmonton Oilers prospect Ethan Bear was kept out of the lineup with injury. Bear, who leads all defencemen with four power play goals in the WHL Playoffs, took warmup but was unable to play.

But it was the opposite end of the special teams spectrum that paid dividends for Seattle first, as Scott Eansor picked off a pass and broke in for a short-handed strike just 3:15 in.

On another breakaway, Finnish rookie Sami Moilanen showed off some pretty mitts to elevate the Thunderbirds to a 2-0 advantage at the 10:57 mark of the first.

If you thought the Rockets would go down so easy, you probably need a history lesson.

First, Calvin Thurkauf:

Then Nick Merkley:

And just like that, it was a 2-2 game midway through the second period.

Both Kelowna goals were scored on the power play, and the T-Birds seemed to take exception to that, ripping off three consecutive power play goals to put the game out of reach:

Both teams would be well-advised to stay out of the box in Game 6, which goes Sunday in Kelowna, as Seattle went 3/8 and the Rockets went 3/10. Moilanen’s goal was the only five-on-five goal scored in the game.

Stankowski continued to impress in the T-Birds net, stopping 37 of 40 shots thrown his way. The Calgary, AB product now boasts an impressive 11-1-1 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .911 save percentage in his first WHL Playoffs run.

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